Often atheists will associate all religions with being cults. In this video Hemant Mehta, an atheist YouTuber and blogger gives what I believe is a fair assessment of the differences between cults and religions.
One of the many objections we as Christians bring up in opposition to an atheistic worldview is that life cannot have purpose. If there exists no creator, no one that created humanity with a specific design with a specific purpose then we cannot go on to say that life has any real purpose or meaning. In the end we must simply eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die and there is nothing left after that.
Atheists object to this point saying that they can create purpose themselves. They can create purpose by creating their own goals, their own wants and achievements. But does this really amount to anything?
I recently was confronted with an objection to the existence of God that I hadn’t really heard of before. It’s taken me some time to put my thoughts together in a way that I feel like asses the objection well, but I think I’ve come up with a reasonable solution.
To the best of my ability this was basically the argument: God, if he exists would want to find the most efficient way in which to reveal himself to us. Unfortunately, the evidence seems to point that God is not being efficient in revealing himself. This can be seen by two factors. First, some people go throughout their entire lives and never hear the name of Jesus. Second, there is suffering and hardship in this world which has not been alleviated by Christianity. Because, God has therefore not been efficient in revealing himself to mankind then he must not exist.
So what is the solution?
So this is the third blog I’ve written on things that Christians need to stop saying. The first I wrote was about Christians telling people, ‘you just have to have faith‘, and after that it came to my attention that there are a whole slew of things that Christians say with the best of intentions that actually cause more harm than good. My last blog in this series was about saying, ‘it’s all part of God’s plan‘. If you have other ideas of what you think fits in with this please send them my way, or put them in the comments!
‘Just pray harder’. I’ve heard it. I’ve said it. I’ve thought it. I’ve also had times were this was the least helpful thing that I could hear or think during my Christian walk.
Like so many of the other ‘pithy’ sayings that we make as Christians, we say this with the best of intent. We see someone struggling and know that God can help them in their situation, or know that praying would be a bit of psychological unloading that is sometimes necessary in a hard time. So, we just encourage them to step towards God in the time and pray about it.
Here is the problem. They probably already have. If something is weighing on a person hard, chances are, especially if they believe in God, they’ve been praying about it already. Perhaps a lot! And even those who don’t believe in God, in a hard time, are known to throw out the prayer of, ‘God if you are there, which I don’t believe you are, now would be a good time to show yourself’. So telling someone to pray probably isn’t helpful. In fact it might even be a bit offensive.
If the person knows the Lord, they can feel that your questioning if they really are a believer. If the person doesn’t believe in God my guess is telling them to pray about it sounds a lot like this: ‘Hey, I know that you don’t believe in God, and that this is an even harder time to believe in God, since he doesn’t seem to be doing anything, but have you thought about praying to that God who clearly seems to not exist right now?”
For the Christians reading this I am sure you’re a little worried with where I am going here. Don’t be. I just want us to think about how our words may come across to non-believers.
Here are the facts. We live in a fallen world where crappy stuff happens. Some of that isn’t easy to just rub some dirt on and move on. Some of it takes time and pressing into the Lord. Sometimes during those times we press into God it doesn’t even seem like he is there. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you know personally that the times you grow most in your relationship with the Lord is in the hard times. So yes, we need to pray harder. But telling someone they need to pray harder probably isn’t much help.
So here is my thought. Instead of telling them to pray, why don’t you pray? Ask them if you can pray for them. And I am not saying praying later that week or when you think of it in a passing thought. Right there, right then. Pray. Pray with them.
Even Atheists I think can appreciate this. Because although they don’t believe in God it still shows them that you care, and that’s comforting in hard times. If God exists, it could be all the help in the world. If he doesn’t exist. . . well, it still won’t hurt.
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? -James 2:15-16
Christians, ‘pray harder’ are we really helping. I mean, thinking about it extremely critically, how does this help? Essentially, I feel that when we tell someone to pray harder we are telling them to ‘do better’. Not really much help. So lets take a note from this passage in James, and help someone physically how we can, and then also pray with them, rather than just telling them to ‘do better’.
When doing Apologetics it can all seem quite overwhelming at times. Frankly, none of us will really every grasp every aspect of apologetics in order to answer every question. In light of this it becomes easy to ask how can we know that Christianity is really the only truth and all of the other religions are wrong.
When I teach apologetics I start by teaching the reasons why we know Christianity is true, because, in the end, if we can show that Christianity is true than we have shown why all of the other religions are wrong.
Just like any part of life we know that two opposite propositions cannot both be true. This still plays out with religion, but for some reason people tend to forget that. If Christianity is true than Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Ba’hai, or anything else is wrong. This isn’t to say that those religions are wrong about everything, but in anything that they disagree with Christianity, they are wrong.
At this point, many of you may be thinking “well most religions basically say the same thing, so they could all really be true”. I’d challenge you to think that through a bit more. When you say all religions teach the same thing what do you mean? They teach the same moral values? Mostly. But even that really isn’t true, not every religion tells you to love your neighbor or care for the needy, Satanism doesn’t, and some groups of Islam don’t.
If we think about it this area of morality is really the only issue that most religions agree on. Outside of that they disagree on heaven, hell, creation, nature of God, nature of Man, Sin, Salvation and many other central truths. Even here some religions don’t just disagree on what these things look like, but disagree on whether these things even exist or not. Hinduism and Buddhism don’t believe in heaven, and Islam and Christianity differ greatly in what heaven is like.
Most importantly these religions vary greatly on how to achieve salvation, though they wouldn’t even all agree to the word salvation, or even the concept itself as well.
Saying that all religions teach the same thing is like saying that Republicans and Democrats are the same because they both believe we should do what is best for the United States, but we all know better than that.
Saying that all religions teach the same thing is like saying that Republicans and Democrats are the same because they both believe we should do what is best for the United States.
So do all religions teach the same thing? No, not even slightly. So how can we know that all the other religions are wrong? Well, if we know Christianity is true than all other religions would have to be false, at least in where they disagree with Christianity. So if you want to know what religions are false, the best place to start is finding what religion is true.
This is the second post in a series answering the question of how evil exists in a world that is ruled by an all powerful and all good God. If you have not read the first blog I suggest that you read it here.
A paradigm shift that I think all Christians need to make when dealing with the problem of evil is that God is not concerned with making us happy He wants to make us good. We usually have in our minds that Gods greatest goal is for our happiness and this is frankly not the case.
Gods greatest goal for us is to become good, not for us to be happy.